Cementing their strength on the international level for the first time, the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team finished first in the medal standings in 2008.

Competing at the Beijing Paralympic Games in September, the team took home 44 medals total, 17 gold nine more than at the 2004 Athens Games. The U.S. swimmers also set a total of 16 world records, 23 Paralympic records, 48 Pan American records and 99 American records.

?As a team, we have taken leaps and bounds since Athens,? said Julie O?Neill, head coach, U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team, in a press statement. ?The entire team has been very performance-oriented and that has shown in the medal count, lifetime best swims and records.?

Of the 38 men and women on the U.S. team, 19 athletes stood on the podium. Their names many not be as recognizable as Michael Phelps, but media reports describe the competition venues as filled to capacity. Spectators at the Water Cube reportedly gave the athletes the same star treatment, requesting autographs and photos.

Medalists included first-time Paralympians Cortney Jordan, Amanda Everlove, Anna Eames and Roy Perkins. Three-time Paralympian Erin Popovich won her 14th career gold in Beijing.

?We have a really young team and we?re going to be around for a while to hold on to this,? Eames said.